The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 11, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Nearly 219,000 white-tailed deer bagged

By DALE SUNDERLIN
For the Star Beacon

— Deer-archery season ended Feb. 3, bringing the white-tailed deer season to a close. Hunters harvested 218,910 white-tailed deer during Ohio’s 2012-13 hunting seasons for all implements, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Hunters checked 219,748 deer in 2011-2012, a difference of less than 1,000 deer this season.

“Ohio has become one of the nation’s top destinations for hunting white-tailed deer,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “We would like to thank the nearly 500,000 outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen that participated during this hunting season. It is their efforts in the field that help us provide some of the best outdoor recreational opportunities in the country.”

The Ohio counties that reported the most checked deer for all implements during the 2012-2013 season: Coshocton (7,413), Licking (6,928), Tuscarawas (6,813), Muskingum (6,457), Guernsey (6,151), Harrison (5,365), Knox (5,288), Ashtabula (4,974), Carroll (4,825) and Belmont (4,731). The top seven counties remained unchanged from last season.

Hunters continue to support alternate methods to report deer kills. Since the deer season began on Sept. 29, 2012, 44 percent of hunters phoned in their report, 40 percent reported online and 16 percent traveled to a license agent’s location.

Ohio’s first modern day deer-gun season opened in 1943 in three counties, and hunters checked 168 deer. Deer hunting was allowed in all 88 counties in 1956, and hunters harvested 3,911 deer during the one-week season.

The white-tailed deer is the most popular game animal in Ohio and is frequently pursued by generations of hunters. Ohio ranks eighth nationally in annual hunting-related sales and 10th in the number of jobs associated with the hunting-related industry. Each year, hunting has an $859 million economic impact in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging and more.

For more information on deer and deer hunting, visit www.wildohio.com.



New regulations

An October antlerless-only white-tailed deer muzzleloader hunting season, extended hunting hours and new bag limits were proposed to the Ohio Wildlife Council on Wednesday, Feb. 6, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

The proposed antlerless-only muzzleloader hunting season would be Oct. 12-13 and scheduled for the second weekend of October in subsequent years. The proposal includes making the October muzzleloader season for antlerless deer only, regardless of the method of take, and eliminating both the bonus gun weekend in December and the early muzzleloader season at three public hunting areas (Salt Fork Wildlife Area, Shawnee State Forest and Wildcat Hollow).

Hunting hours are proposed to be extended 30 minutes past sunset for all deer firearms seasons, including the weeklong deer-gun season, youth season and muzzleloader seasons. This will make the hours the same as archery season.

County bag limits are proposed to replace deer zones. Proposed bag limits will be two, three or four deer, determined by county. The proposed statewide bag limit is nine deer with additional controlled hunt opportunities, which do not count against the statewide bag limit. The nine deer bag limit is reduced from last season’s 18 deer limit.

It is also proposed that antlerless permits will only be valid until the Sunday before the deer-gun season. Urban deer zones would be eliminated. Hunters may harvest only one buck in Ohio, regardless of the method of take or location.

Proposed deer bag limits, from the following counties combined:

One either-sex permit, one antlerless permit (eight counties): Darke, Erie, Fayette, Hancock, Madison, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood.

Two either-sex permits, one antlerless permit (23 counties): Auglaize, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Gallia, Harrison, Henry, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Logan, Meigs, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Preble, Ross, Shelby, Van Wert and Washington.

n Three either-sex permits, one antlerless permit (57 counties): Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Clinton, Columbiana, Coshocton, Crawford, Cuyahoga, Defiance, Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Fulton, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Hamilton, Hardin, Highland, Holmes, Huron, Knox, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Paulding, Pickaway, Pike, Portage, Putnam, Richland, Scioto, Seneca, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Warren, Wayne, Williams and Wyandot.

Proposed seasons for 2013-14:

n Deer archery: Sept. 28, 2013 - Feb. 2, 2014.

n Deer antlerless muzzleloader: Oct. 12-13, 2013.

n Youth deer gun: Nov. 16-17, 2013.

n Deer gun: Dec. 2-8, 2013.

n Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 4-7, 2014.

The start of fall turkey hunting season is proposed to be moved to the Monday following the antlerless deer muzzleloader season. The proposed fall turkey hunting season is Oct. 14 - Dec. 1, 2013. Butler, Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Seneca and Warren counties are proposed to be added to the existing list of counties open for fall turkey hunting, which would bring the total to 56 counties. Deer and fall wild turkey permits would go on sale June 1, instead of March 1.

Changes in hunting regulations are proposed by ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists and wildlife management staff. These proposed changes, if approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council, will take effect for the 2013-2014 hunting seasons. Open houses will be held statewide March 2 for public input on the proposals, and public comments are welcome online at wildohio.com. After receiving public input, the Ohio Wildlife Council will vote at its April 17 meeting.



Head for the sheds

Some consider the pursuit as an Easter Egg hunt for hunters and as a great cure for cabin fever; whatever your reason for heading outdoors to hunt shed antlers, it’s always a good time. And in addition to finding antlers that reveal important clues about the deer in the area, you can also use the antler hunting trips afield for several other hunting-related purposes. And if you want to widen the eyes of the next generation of hunters, invite some kids to go with you on the antler hunt. The warming days of spring will soon be upon us; it’s time to get out after those antlers!

For some this rite of early spring is as exciting as the hunts for complete bucks that were undertaken months earlier. After all, it is the bony antlers that most hunters seek and dream about. Finding and grasping a big shed antler will bring a tingle to most any hunter and foster dreams about hunting opportunities in the fall ahead.



Get your gear

Before you begin the hunt you’ll need to gather some gear, most of which you probably already own. The first is a pair of comfortable waterproof boots, as you should expect to walk many miles. Next, grab your binoculars. Binoculars can save you many unnecessary steps and help spot distant antlers. You will also want a daypack for water and food when making a day trip, and to haul back your recovered antlers when the day is done.  Warning: after you find that first antler, you’ll be hooked.



The X factor

Many hunters often start looking for antlers along the deer trails that snaked past their favorite hunting stands. These hunters also know where deer bed, where they feed, and the routes taken between. And most hunters also know where the deer in their hunting areas spend the winter days. The hunt for antlers begins around bedding areas and along game trails.

As you come to intersections of deer trails, take the time to scan left and right, and up and down, trails. Anything with a noted curve or that comes to a sudden point needs closer attention, as does any item that looks chalky white. After you find a few antlers, finding more shed antlers seems to be easier. And some hunters return to the same areas year after year to hunt for antlers. They know brushy areas where deer hunker down to escape raw winter winds, and bedding sites that are close to late winter food sources are prime for locating sheds.



Wandering eyes

After walking a trail in one direction, never walk along it again during your search. Walk off to one side, and always scan to the sides of the area you are passing through. One reason that some hunters miss spotting antlers on the ground is because they are too narrow focused on the trail ahead and fail to let their eyes wander.

And should a trail that you are following head into dense brush, go in as far as possible and search all around the area and on the sides where other trails exit the brush. Overhead limbs and dense brush have pulled many an antler loose from its pedicle.



Sudden impact

If you plan to take up the hunt and follow well used deer trails, when any trail comes to fences, creeks, ditches or across thick logs, slow down and begin looking carefully. Any jump and the following impact when a deer lands on the ground seems to jar loose aging antlers. Obviously sites where deer bound over farm fences are good places to search, and feel free to follow the fences along long spans while you scan along both sides.

You will rarely find antlers stuck in fences, but some antler hunters do. It’s the sudden landing after a hop that seems to spring an antler loose from its base. And the antler might tumble shortly after the jump, so look at least 20 yards away from fences.

Fences are not the only sites where antlers fall free. Other sites are along creeks and riverbanks, and along roadsides where a deer must jump up or down a bank.

If you also have a narrow ditch running through your hunting area, that’s a top place to search. Again, when a deer goes up and comes down with a thud, an antler could come off. And be certain to look in a wide area around these obstacles.



Weather game

In some regions deer antlers start dropping before or around Christmas. The time to drop varies by region, and by year. There’s no set date, so search away when you have free time during winter and spring.

The downside is that during winter antlers can be hard to spot in snow, and deep, soft snow can make the hunt frustrating. You can easily spot some antlers in an area with barren ground after you had searched in earnest there the week before. The difference was that on the first trip a foot of snow covered the ground. If you decide to search when snow blankets the ground, it’s best to walk well-worn deer trails. Step slowly and look carefully.



Fun in the sun

Another aid in finding antlers is the sun. You’ll spot far more antlers with the sun at your back or over a shoulder, so plan your hunts and routes in areas based on the time of day and the sun’s location. Walking into, and staring into the sun, can give you a headache and lessen your chances to spot a “bone.” You may also want look as much as possible on an overcast day or when a light rain is falling. Antlers just seem easier to spot on the ground then as the light color stands out against a wet and darker background.



Think ahead

After long, cold winters and hours confined to the warmth of your home, antler hunting is a top reason to return to the great outdoors. When snow melts or frosts cease, and before grasses grow green, is the prime time to search. You can see far in the forests and fields, and game trails are more obvious. You can also use these trips to search out hunting sites for the fall ahead, or to scout for turkey hunting areas. When possible, never go antler hunting alone.



Party time

Always invite your wife, the kids, and some neighborhood kids to join you. Finding an antler seems as big a way to hook youngsters on the outdoors as going deer hunting. And kids have an advantage-they are low to the ground and can go under brush we might walk around. Just don’t be too surprised when they drag up an antler as big as they are. The excursion should be fun. Get out there after ’em.

Good luck and remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.



Datebook

The Amboy Sharp Shooters 4H Club will be holding it’s annual registration on March 2 and March 23, 2013 at the Amboy Rifle Club from 9 a.m. till noon. This will be you opportunity to sign up for this years 4H Club featuring the discipline’s of Rifle and Archery. For more information, call 344-6208 or email amboysharps@gmail.com.

There a couple of Wild Game Dinners going on in the area, here’s a list of the ones I know of:

Peoples Church, Feb. 23, 2013. Call 466-2020 for more information.

Jefferson Nazarene, March 14, 2013. Call 576-6556 for more information.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at djss@roadrunner.com.